Keeping Tabs on Your Fuel Usage

Getting the most out of each gallon can be as simple as watching idle time and how you or your crews operate the equipment

Keeping Tabs on Your Fuel Usage

Equipment operation is a big factor in keeping tabs on fuel usage. Companies can track this in different ways, including telematics.

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Fuel is one of the greatest operating costs for any contractor who owns heavy equipment and/or trucks. Working in a way that can save fuel can end up saving a lot of money.

“To reduce fuel use, you have to know how and when fuel is being wasted,” says William “Bernie” Bernhard, technical and safety services manager for AEM, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

Start by examining top fuel usage influencers in off-highway applications. “Machines equipped with telematics can provide actionable data by tracking dozens of data points so workers can gain valuable insights to help save fuel,” Bernhard says.

IDLE TIME — A KEY FACTOR

Idle time is often the largest contributor to fuel inefficiency and a good start to manage fuel consumption. To decrease idle times, operators can take advantage of fuel-saving technology, such as auto-idle. Also popular is auto-shutdown where a machine can idle for a preset period of time.

Examine the patterns in your machine’s idle times. If a machine idles for short periods of time (a few seconds to a few minutes) frequently throughout the day, that may mean the machine is at a bottleneck in the workflow.

An example is when an operator has to wait for another operator to complete a task before continuing work. In this case, either machine selection, material location or some other job site factor needs to change to reduce idle time.

However, if a machine idles for several minutes at a time or more, infrequently throughout the day, that probably means the operator is not shutting down the machine when on break, when on the phone, when exiting the machine or when having their work interrupted for a longer period of time.

In these cases, a discussion is needed with the operator regarding company expectations, to take the necessary steps to decrease idle time. 

EQUIPMENT OPERATION

How an operator uses a machine can influence fuel efficiency. Small changes in behavior can have large effects on fuel use.

One easy way operators can save fuel is by using the appropriate work mode, which makes it easier for operators to match the power needed to the application at hand.

In order to set up a job site to optimize fuel use, a company needs to examine data related to job-site workflow, including equipment capacities, the number of each machine on site, equipment and material locations, terrain and more.

Maintenance is also an issue: for example, checking fuel filters on the machines from your suppliers, the storage tanks at your job sites and your base fuel storage facilities, according to Bernhard. 

“By tracking how much fuel is used in applications, the amount and type of idle time, and analyzing other machine data, you can get a good picture of when fuel is wasted,” he says. “Combine this with fully understanding and using the fuel-saving features of your machines, and you will be able to get the most out of each gallon.”



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